The winning margin is lower than some expected, with turnout down from 2012.
La Republique en Marche was formed just over a year ago, and half of its candidates have little or no political experience.
The result has swept aside all of the mainstream parties and gives President Macron a strong mandate in parliament to pursue his pro-EU, business-friendly reform plans.
The second round of the parliamentary election was marked by weak voter turnout, estimated to be a record low of about 42%, down sharply on five years ago.
Correspondents say opponents of the 39-year-old president may simply have not bothered to turn out.
PM Edouard Philippe acknowledged the low turnout, promising his party would act for France as a whole.
The comfortable majority of La République en Marche (Republic on the Move or LREM) and MoDem – surpassing the 289-seat threshold required to control the National Assembly – will be a big blow to traditional parties on both the left and right.
The conservative Republicans and their allies could form a large opposition block, with 125-131 seats. But this figure is down from 200 seats in the last parliament.
The Socialists, who were in power for the past five years, alongside their partners, looked set to get only 41-49 seats – their lowest tally ever.
Socialist leader Jean-Claude Cambadélis announced his retirement from the post, and urged the left “to change everything, its form and its substance, its ideas and its organization”.
Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) party won eight seats, but it had set its sights on 15.
The 48-year-old leader has won a seat in parliament for the first time, representing Henin-Beaumont, a depressed former mining town in the north. However, two of her top aides, including her deputy leader, were eliminated.
Marine Le Pen said President Macron may have got a large parliamentary majority, but “he must know that his ideas are not of the majority in the country and that the French will not support a project that weakens our nation”.
The president needs a majority to push through the changes that he promised in his campaign, which include budget savings of €60 billion ($65 billion) in the next five years, cutting the number of public servants by 120,000, reforming the labor market and generous state pension schemes, bringing them into line with private schemes.
Emmanuel Macron will also become the first president from outside the two traditional main parties since the modern republic’s foundation in 1958.
He said that a new page was being turned in French history.
Emmanuel Macron said he had heard “the rage, anxiety and doubt that a lot of you have expressed” and vowed to spend his five years in office “fighting the forces of division that undermine France”.
He said he would “guarantee the unity of the nation and… defend and protect Europe”.
Image source Wikimedia
Thousands of Emmanuel Macron’s supporters gathered to celebrate outside the Louvre in central Paris. Emmanuel Macron has now arrived to join them.
Security remains tight in Paris and there were reports of police firing tear gas at several hundred anti-capitalist protesters near the Ménilmontant metro in the 20th arrondissement.
The Macron team said that the new president had had a “cordial” telephone conversation with Marine Le Pen.
In a speech Marine Le Pen thanked the 11 million people who had voted for her. She said the election had shown a division between “patriots and globalists” and called for the emergence of a new political force.
Marine Le Pen said her National Front party needed to renew itself and that she would start the “deep transformation of our movement”, vowing to lead it into upcoming parliamentary elections.
She also said she had wished Emmanuel Macron success in tackling the “huge challenges” facing him.
President François Hollande congratulated Emmanuel Macron and said the result showed the French people wanted to unite around the “values of the republic”.
Initial figures suggested the turnout was lower than the past two elections.
Polls opened in France, where voters are choosing their next president after an unpredictable campaign that has divided the country.
The second round contest pits centrist Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker, against the 48-year-old far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen.
Citizens in some overseas territories and many French expats abroad have begun voting.
The polls opened in metropolitan France at 08:00 local time on May 7 and close at 19:00.
Polling stations will remain open in some big cities until 20:00 local time, with early estimates of the result due to be reported immediately after they close.
The two candidates, who topped a field of 11 presidential hopefuls in the first round election on April 23, have offered voters starkly different visions of France.
Emmanuel Macron, a liberal centrist, is pro-business and a strong supporter of the EU, while Marine Le Pen campaigned on a France-first, anti-immigration program.
Image source AFP
The National Front leader wants France to abandon the euro in the domestic economy, and hold a referendum on the country’s EU membership.
Emmanuel Macron is widely expected to win the vote, but analysts have said high abstention rates could damage his chances.
The run-off will be keenly watched across Europe, ahead of elections in Germany and the UK and as Britain negotiates its exit from the EU.
In whittling down a field of candidates to Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, French voters rejected the two big political parties – the Socialists and the Republicans – that have governed for decades.
The presidential campaign has been marked by its unpredictability, and in a final twist on May 5, soon before campaigning officially ended, Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! political movement said it had been the victim of a “massive” hack, with a trove of documents released online.
The Macron team said real documents were mixed up with fake ones, and electoral authorities warned media and the public that spreading details of the attack would breach strict election rules and could bring criminal charges.
En Marche compared the hack to the leak of Democratic Party emails in last year’s US presidential election that was blamed on Russian hackers.
Emmanuel Macron has previously accused Moscow of targeting him with cyber attacks, which Russia strongly denied.
On May 6, President François Hollande promised to “respond” to the attack.
Management of the economy, security, immigration and France’s relationship with the EU have all been key issues in the campaign.
One of the overriding issues is unemployment, which stands at almost 10% and is the eighth highest among the 28 EU member states. One in four under-25s is unemployed.
The French economy has made a slow recovery from the 2008 financial crisis and both candidates say deep changes are needed.
Marine Le Pen wants the pension age cut to 60 and to “renationalize French debt”, which she argues is largely held by foreigners.
Emmanuel Macron wants to cut 120,000 public-sector jobs, reduce public spending by €60 billion ($65 billion), plough billions into investment and reduce unemployment to below 7%.
If voters opt for Emmanuel Macron, they will be backing a candidate who seeks EU reform as well as deeper European integration, in the form of a eurozone budget and eurozone finance ministers.
Marine Le Pen promises quite the opposite. She wants a Europe of nations to replace the EU.
They are similarly divided on other foreign policy issues. Emmanuel Macron opposes any rapprochement with Russia, while Marine Le Pen met Vladimir Putin in Moscow recently and has previously stated her approval of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
The presidential election will be followed by legislative elections on June 11 and 18. Emmanuel Macron, who quit the Socialist government of President Hollande to found his new political movement, has no lawmakers, and Marine Le Pen has only two.
Whoever wins the presidency will need to perform well in those crucial elections if they want to win a parliamentary majority to push through their proposals.
About nine gigabytes of data were posted online by an anonymous user.
Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement said internal campaign documents, including emails and financial data, had been taken in an “act of massive, co-ordinated hacking”.
“The leaked files were obtained several weeks ago by hacking personal and professional email accounts of several officials of the movement,” the party said in a statement.
Image source Wikimedia
The campaign said the documents showed only legitimate campaign activities.
France’s election commission warned that publication or republication of the leaked information could be a criminal offence.
That too remains unclear. The Macron camp has not blamed any specific party but said the hack clearly aimed to damage it and undermine French democracy.
It compared it to the leak of Democratic Party emails in last year’s US presidential election that was blamed on Russian hackers.
WikiLeaks, which published those emails, posted a link to the Macron documents on Twitter but implied it was not responsible.
Emmanuel Macron’s team has already been the victim of hacking attacks, for which it has blamed groups based in Russia and Ukraine. It suspects the Kremlin of wanting to help Marine Le Pen, who supports a pro-Moscow foreign policy.
Macron campaign servers went down for several minutes in February after attacks apparently originating in Ukraine. Last month, security experts from the company Trend Micro said that Russian hackers were targeting Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, using phishing emails, malware and fake net domains in an attempt to grab login names, passwords and other credentials of campaign staff.
Russia has denied that it is behind attacks aimed at Emmanuel Macron.
On May 4, Emmanuel Macron filed a lawsuit over online rumors that he had a secret bank account in the Caribbean.
The centrist candidate called the allegations “fake news and lies” and said some of the sites spreading them were “linked to Russian interests”.
Separate security alerts in and around Paris marred May 5 final scramble by the candidates to court voters.
A suspected radical Islamist possessing weapons and a pledge of allegiance to ISIS was arrested north of Paris.
Greenpeace activists scaled the Eiffel Tower to unfurl a banner, sparking an emergency police meeting.
French voters have rejected the two big political parties – the Socialists and the Republicans – that have governed for decades.
Voters will be making a decision on the country’s future direction and on its place at the heart of the EU.
If they opt for liberal Emmanuel Macron, they will be backing a candidate who seeks EU reform as well as deeper European integration, in the form of a eurozone budget and eurozone finance ministers.
If instead they choose far-right Marine Le Pen she promises quite the opposite. She wants a Europe of nations to replace the EU.
“I give myself six months to negotiate with the EU the return of sovereignty. Then it will be the French who decide,” Marine Le Pen tweeted.
The assumption is that Marine Le Pen would fail and a referendum would take place initially on France’s membership of the euro.
After the Brexit vote in the UK and the election of President Donald Trump, France is the latest country to deal a blow to politics as usual.
Emmanuel Macron was more impressive than rival Marine Le Pen in last night’s final TV debate for French presidential debate, a viewers’ poll says.
The candidates traded insults for more than two hours, arguing over terrorism, the economy, and Europe.
The French broadcaster BFMTV found voters had a more favorable view of Emmanuel Macron than Marine Le Pen in most categories.
Emmanuel Macron was the “most convincing” of the pair in the opinion of 63% of viewers.
Marine Le Pen lambasted her rival for his finance and government background, accusing him of being “the candidate of savage globalization” and said his version of France “is a trading room, where it will be everyone fighting for themselves”.
In turn, Emmanuel Macron said Marine Le Pen had openly lied, proposed nothing, and exaggerated the concerns of the public.
“The high priestess of fear is sitting before me,” he said.
Image source AFP
Both candidates were hoping to make an impression on the estimated 18% of undecided voters in the first election the country has ever held without a candidate from the two traditional mainstream parties.
The BFMTV poll found that Emmanuel Macron was deemed the “most convincing” during the TV debate for two-thirds of those who voted for both left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first round, and for 58% of those who voted for Republican François Fillon.
It was carried out among 1,314 people over the age of 18 who watched the debate.
Emmanuel Macron already enjoys a lead in the opinion polls, which predict he will pull in about 59% of votes.
However, Marine Le Pen hammered her rival on his record during the key debate.
On unemployment, which stands at around 10% nationally, Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that France had not tackled the problem – and Marine Le Pen asked why he had not handled it during his recent time as economy minister.
Marine Le Pen also accused Emmanuel Macron of complacency about the threat of radical Islamist terrorism.
“Security and terrorism are major issues that are completely missing from your program,” she said.
In response, Emmanuel Macron said the measures she proposed – “eradicating” Islamic fundamentalism by shutting down extremist mosques, and expelling preachers of hate – played into terrorists’ hands and the desire they have for a “a civil war”.
They also clashed on the future of the EU, where they have clearly opposed views.
Marine Le Pen has said she would call for an in-out referendum on EU membership, and in recent days declared the euro currency finished.
During the debate, the National Front leader said she would restore France’s national currency and give companies and banks an option on which currency to pay in – a proposal which Emmanuel Macron labeled “nonsense”.
“How can a big company pay in euros on one hand and pay its employees in another currency?” he asked.
Last night’s debate marked the last time the two candidates faced each other before May 7 vote.
Just two days of campaigning remain before reporting restrictions come into force late on May 5 – and remain in place until polls close on May 7.
For the first time, neither candidate is from a mainstream French party.
Although Marine Le Pen’s father qualified in 2002 for the run-off as head of her party, the National Front (FN), his rival and eventual winner, Jacques Chirac, refused to take part in a debate because of the FN leader’s extremist views.
Image source AFP
Both candidates have limited their campaigning in recent days in preparation for the debate, set for 21:00 on May 3 and due to last two hours 20 minutes.
There have been TV debates ahead of the first round but so far the two main candidates have not sparred face to face. And this is being billed as the moment of truth, on the two biggest TV channels in front of some 20 million French viewers.
All the big campaign themes will be tackled, from France’s 10% unemployment rate and the economy to security, health policy and the EU.
For Marine Le Pen it is her big chance to land some blows and make up ground by exposing her 39-year-old rival’s relative inexperience.
Emmanuel Macron as favorite arguably has most to lose.
The French debate is not similar to the US presidential debate where the candidates stand behind lecterns. This is a direct confrontation.
The two candidates will sit at a big desk, Marine Le Pen on the left, Emmanuel Macron on the right. The presidential debate is a tried and tested event in France, going back to 1974.
The two moderators, Nathalie Saint-Cricq and Christophe Jakubyszyn are heavyweight political journalists, but not the big TV presenters France is used to. That is because the candidates objected to the initial choices.
The temperature will be regulated at 19C to keep the candidates cool.
The debate is must-see TV for French voters but there could be a battle over the remote.
AS Monaco go head to head against Juventus 15 minutes before the debate starts in the semi-final of the Champions League, in a match broadcast on pay TV.
Marine Le Pen’s campaign is based on a patriotic “Choose France” slogan. According to her, she is the real thing, and her rival is an impostor backed up by the old guard of French politics.
Her supporters leapt on a rumor on May 2 that Emmanuel Macron was threatening to walk out of the debate if she started using him as a “punching-ball”.
Marine Le Pen tweeted: “If Mr. Macron doesn’t feel comfortable he can always ask [President] François Hollande to come and hold his hand, I won’t stand in his way.”
However, to convince voters wary of a far-right leader she may project a softer image too, while her opponent will need to show a firm streak.
Emmanuel Macron’s aim is to seek the moral high ground by showing that he has authentic policies while his rival’s ideas are simplistic and dangerous for France.
“I want to go head-to-head, to get to the bottom of the issues, to show that these are false solutions,” he said on May 2.
In a victory speech to supporters, Emmanuel Macron borrowed language favored by his rival to describe himself as the patriotic choice for France.
Image source NBC News
“I hope that in a fortnight I will become your president. I want to become the president of all the people of France – the president of the patriots in the face of the threat from the nationalists,” he said.
Marine Le Pen also made an “appeal to all patriots”, saying a vote for her was the key to the “survival of France”.
“Wherever they come from, whatever their origin, whatever they voted for in the first round, I invite them all to join us and to abandon ancient quarrels and to concentrate on what is essential for our country,” she said.
Marine Le Pen’s campaign for the Front National party centers on wanting to slash immigration, clamp down on free-trade, and overturn France’s relationship with Europe.
Emmanuel Macron was current President Francois Hollande’s economy minister but quit to create his own party, En Marche, which pushes a liberal, pro-EU agenda.
The 39-year-old could now become the youngest president France has ever had.
Various political rivals are now expected to unite in a bid to keep the Front National from power.
Benoit Hamon, the candidate of President Hollande’s Socialist Party who failed to make an impact in the first round, urged those who voted for him to support Emmanuel Macron in the next stage.
Francois Fillon has done the same.
As the results came in, Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation in front of an EU flag, giving hope to European leaders who are keen to strengthen the union after Brexit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffan Seibert, tweeted: “It’s good that Emmanuel Macron was successful with his course for a strong EU and social market economy. All the best for the next two weeks.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also congratulated Emmanuel Macron, as did EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
French voters are going to the polls to choose their next president, amid high security following a deadly attack on Champs Elysees three days ago.
About 50,000 police and 7,000 soldiers are being deployed across France to secure polling.
Eleven candidates are vying to be France’s next president, with leading candidates spanning the political spectrum from far-left to far-right.
The two with the most votes will go to a run-off round in a fortnight’s time.
Polling stations in France opened at 08:00 local time, although some overseas territories began the voting on April 22. Voting ends at 20:00, with exit polls expected quickly afterwards.
Four candidates are currently seen as being within reach of the presidency: conservative François Fillon, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Image source France24
The candidates have created plenty of debate in France, all offering dramatically different visions of Europe, immigration, the economy and French identity.
Extra security measures are in place on polling day after Karim Cheurfi, a convicted criminal, shot dead a police officer on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Karim Cheurfi was killed by security forces and a note defending ISIS was found near his body.
National security had been one of the main talking points during the campaign, but candidates have been accused of exploiting the most recent attack for political gains.
The race between the leading contenders is considered too close to call.
However, no candidate is expected to get the 50% of votes required for an outright win.
A second round between the top two will be held on May 7.
Francois Fillon is the only one among the leading contenders from an established party of government.
Benoît Hamon, the socialist candidate from the same party as the current president, is seen as out of the running.
However, the former prime minister has now slipped behind far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron in the race to become president.
Francois Fillon, 63, faces accusations that he arranged for his wife to be paid public money for work as his parliamentary assistant amid claims that: the work she did was trivial or non-existent; Penelope Fillon had no parliamentary pass; few were aware Penelope Fillon was a member of Francois Fillon’s staff; misleading information was included on timesheets.
Francois Fillon is also being investigated over payments to his two children, Marie and Charles, when he was a senator. He has said his children were paid as lawyers for specific tasks, but neither was a qualified lawyer at the time.
In all, Francois Fillon is suspected of diverting public funds, complicity in misappropriating funds, receiving the funds and not declaring assets fully.
There are also questions about a job Penelope Fillon had at a literary magazine owned by a billionaire friend of the couple, for which she allegedly did little or no actual work.
Until recently, he was the favorite to win the elections in April and May.
However, the former prime minister has now slipped behind far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Image source Wikimedia
On March 14, Francois Fillon, 63, was personally placed under formal investigation over suspicions that he arranged for his wife Penelope to be paid public money for work as his parliamentary assistant which she did not actually carry out.
Francois Fillon is also being investigated over payments to his two children Marie and Charles when he was a senator. He has said his children were paid as lawyers, for specific tasks. But neither was a qualified lawyer at the time.
A magistrate had already been investigating the case, but until now the inquiry did not mention directly Francois Fillon.
The embarrassment is acute because this is the same Francois Fillon who before the campaign said it would be inconceivable for someone to remain as a candidate if placed in this legal situation, our correspondent adds.
In a separate development on March 14, French media report that Marine Le Pen is now suspected by the country’s tax authorities of undervaluing her share of two properties jointly owned with her father Jean Marie Le Pen.
Marine Le Pen has made no public comment on the issue.
However, key members of his campaign team have abandoned him and several leading Republicans have wavered in their support.
Alain Juppe, like Francois Fillon a former prime minister, did not hold back against any of the leading candidates on March 6.
However, he reserved his angriest comments for Francois Fillon, whose talk of a plot, and criticism of judges and the media, “has led him into a dead-end”.
“What a waste,” he said.
The pressure on Francois Fillon is likely to grow next week, when he is due to appear before a judge to be placed under formal investigation for embezzlement.
In the short-term, Francois Fillon’s party will hold a unity summit on March 6, a meeting he has been urged to attend.
His drop in favorability and Alain Juppe’s decision look like clearing the way for the young centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron to battle it out against Marine Le Pen in the second round. Polls give him a clear edge over the National Front candidate.
A big question mark now hangs over former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Defeated in the first Republican primary by Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, he had called for an emergency meeting between the three of them.
His Republican party has brought forward crisis talks to March 6.
The former prime minister has seen his popularity slip in opinion polls.
Penelope Fillon told the magazine: “If it hadn’t been me, he would have paid someone else to do it, so we decided that it would be me.
“Everything was legal and declared.”
Image source Wikimedia
Penelope Fillon said that she has repeatedly told her husband to “go all the way” but said that the final decision would be down to him.
She urged Francois Fillon’s supporters to get behind him in his presidential campaign and not to give up.
Speaking to supporters in Paris on March 4 as he marked his 63rd birthday, Francois Fillon said that those attacking him over his presidential bid were “trying to kill a desire for change”.
The latest opinion polls suggest that he would be eliminated in the first round of presidential election voting on April 23, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen and liberal Emmanuel Macron likely to progress to contest the election run-off on May 7.
A survey published in Journal du Dimanche suggests that 71% of those polled want Francois Fillon to step down.
In another blow to Francois Fillon’s campaign, his spokesman announced on March 3 that he was quitting.
Thierry Solere’s resignation is one of a slew of notable departures, including the campaign treasurer on March 2.
Francois Fillon’s woes have raised speculation that Alain Juppe, also a former prime minister, could return to the race if he were to pull out.
Alain Juppe was overwhelmingly defeated by Francois Fillon in the Republicans’ primary in November, securing only 33% of the vote to Fillon’s 66%.
Sources close to Alain Juppe said he would be prepared to step in, but only with the unanimous support of the party and only if Francois Fillon were to go voluntarily.
Francois Fillon has so far said he has no intention of stepping down despite the continuing hemorrhage of allies.
Francois Fillon says a judge is placing him under investigation over a fake job scandal – but has vowed to continue his campaign for France presidential election.
For weeks, the center-right presidential candidate has fought allegations that his wife, Penelope, was paid for years for work she did not do.
Francois Fillon called the investigation “a political assassination” against him.
President Francois Hollande criticized his words, and accused him of attacking France’s judicial system.
The president said: “Being a presidential candidate doesn’t authorize you to cast suspicion on the work of police and judges.”
Francois Fillon says he has been summoned to appear before the judge, Serge Tournaire, on March 15.
Image source Wikimedia
The date is just two days before the deadline for candidates to submit their final applications. The first round takes place on April 23, followed by a second-round run-off on May 7.
In a combative speech on March 1 announcing the formal investigation, Francois Fillon called on his supporters to “resist”, saying it was up to voters to decide his fate.
“It’s not just me that is being assassinated, it’s the presidential election. The voices of millions of votes have been muzzled,” he complained.
Francois Fillon said he would respect the summons and tell the judge the truth.
The judge has heard several high-profile cases, including those of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and tycoon Bernard Tapie.
Francois Fillon was selected late last year in national primaries held by the centre-right Republicans that attracted some four million voters.
For a time he was the favorite in the race to succeed Francois Hollande as president – until the fake job allegations emerged.
His appearances have recently been accompanied by loud protests.
He has slipped to third in the polls, behind far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Marine Le Pen also faces allegations that she misused EU funds – a claim she denies.
The allegations circling around the Fillon family focus mainly on his Welsh-born wife Penelope.
Le Canard Enchaine alleged Penelope Fillon was paid €831,400 ($900,000) over several years for working as a parliamentary assistant for her husband and his successor, but had no parliamentary pass – raising questions over whether she did the work she was paid for.
Penelope Fillon was also alleged to have picked up €100,000 for writing a handful of articles for a literary journal.
The family has consistently denied the claims. Initially Francois Fillon said he would stand down as a candidate if his case was placed under formal investigation, but recently he insisted that he would fight on “until victory”.
“The closer we get to the date of the presidential election, the more scandalous it would be to deprive the right and centre of a candidate,” he said.
Penelope Fillon also faces a formal investigation, AFP reports, citing a source close to the investigation.
Francois Fillon has taken back a promise to quit France’s presidential race if placed under formal investigation.
His campaign has been dogged by claims, which he denies, that his wife and two of his children were paid for non-existent parliamentary work.
While an initial investigation is already under way, a decision on a more formal probe has yet to be made.
Francois Fillon told Le Figaro: “I am the candidate and I will continue until victory.
“The closer we get to the date of the election, the more scandalous it would be to deny the Right and the Center of a candidate.”
Image source Wikimedia
The first round of the election will be held on April 23, with the second round run-off between two candidates two weeks later.
On January 26, Francois Fillon had told the TF1 channel that “the only thing that would prevent me from being a candidate is if my honor was tainted, if I was placed under examination”.
While France’s financial prosecutor decided to keep an initial investigation open on February 16, the decision to launch a more formal probe would need to be taken by a magistrate. It could take months or years to reach that point.
Media reports say Francois Fillon’s Welsh-born wife Penelope earned €831,400 ($880,000) as her husband’s parliamentary assistant between 1998 and 2012, and questioned how much work she had done.
It subsequently emerged that Francois Fillon had hired two of his children to act as lawyers, paying them €84,000 between 2005 and 2007 – when they were students.
In early February, Francois Fillon said that although what he had done was legal, French people no longer accepted the practice and that he had made a “mistake”.
The controversy has hit Francois Fillon in the polls, with one new survey by Ifop for three French media outlets on February 17 suggesting he is neck-and-neck with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.
However, the poll places both behind the far-right’s Marine Le Pen.
Polls indicate Francois Fillon or Emmanuel Macron would easily beat Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election in May.
Benoit Hamon has become the French Socialist Party’s candidate in this year’s presidential elections, after winning a run-off vote on January 29.
The ex-education minister comfortably beat former PM Manuel Valls, who conceded before the final tally was completed.
However, the Socialists are not expected to do well in the election as the outgoing president, Francois Hollande, has a very low approval rating.
Conservative Francois Fillon, right-wing Marine Le Pen, and centrist Emmanuel Macron lead the polls for April elections.
With 60% votes counted in the Socialist run-off, Benoit Hamon had just over 58% to Manuel Valls’ 41%.
After his win was announced, Benoit Hamon said: “Despite the differences, the forces of the left have never been so close in terms of ideas. Let’s come together.”
Image source Wikipedia
Benoit Hamon, 49, called on the Socialist Party, independent left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon, and a Green candidate to unite and “construct a government majority”.
He was the most left-leaning of the seven initial candidates in the Socialist race, the first round of which was held last week.
Benoit Hamon has experienced a surge in popularity from a range of progressive plans, including a proposal for a universal monthly income for all citizens.
He also wants to legalize cannabis, and ditch the labor law passed last year that made it easier to hire and fire.
Anyone was allowed to vote in the primary, even those who were not party members.
According to organizers, the turnout was much higher than the previous week, when 1.6 million people cast ballots.
However, there have been reports of mismanagement, with one reporter from news site Buzzfeed saying she had been allowed to vote four times in the second round. She said she voided her ballot so as not to affect the outcome.
Journalists from Le Monde newspaper also claimed they were permitted to vote more than once in the first round.
Manuel Valls had built his campaign on his experience gained as prime minister between 2014 and 2016.
The presidential race has taken a turn in recent days, with the favorite for the post, Francois Fillon, becoming embroiled in a controversy over payments to his wife for political work – which a French publication claimed there was no evidence she carried out.
Francois Fillon denies the allegations, and said he would drop out of the race if there was enough evidence to launch an investigation.
On January 29, Francois Fillon and his wife were side by side at a Paris rally that sought to reinvigorate his candidacy.
In his speech, Francois Fillon said: “Leave my wife out of the political debate!”
Francois Fillon’s scandal could potentially be a boost for Marine Le Pen, the anti-immigration hardliner who has pledged to put “native” French people first.